Outlaw John Wesley Hardin’s Revolver
Updated: Aug 8, 2021
The Wild West was full of lawmen, outlaws, gun fighters, and tall tales. One such outlaw was John Wesley Hardin, who claimed to have first killed a man when he was 15. He claimed to have killed as many as 42, but not all of them can be verified. Nonetheless, one thing was true: Hardin spent most of his life as a wanted man.
One man who wanted him was Brown County (TX) Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb. Webb was a former Texas Ranger for a whole three months before his company folded due to lack of funding. It was then, in March 1874, that he became Deputy Sheriff.
Out celebrating his 21st birthday, Hardin and his cohorts were in a local saloon when Webb got word that Hardin was in town. Exactly what happened and who drew their gun first is up for debate. The outcome, however, is cut and dry.
Hardin used the Smith & Wesson First Model Russian revolver shown above to kill Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in a gunfight outside of Jack Wright’s saloon in Comanche, Texas, on May 26, 1874. Supposedly, Webb was attempting to arrest Hardin when he was shot and killed. Webb was only 25.
(As a brief aside, it's possible that this revolver is one of the guns that was peacefully taken off of him by "Wild Bill" Hickok in 1871 when Hardin, using an alias, came to Abilene, Kansas, where Hickok was a marshal.)
Sheriff John Carnes arrested Hardin and took possession of the gun belt and revolver. Carnes gave it back to Hardin when a mob later assembled and he felt that he alone couldn't keep Hardin from being lynched. However, the belt came undone as the outlaw ran to his horse and Sheriff Carnes took possession of it once again.
In 1878, Hardin was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Seventeen years later, he was released early, received a pardon, and began practicing law. In 1895, he was killed by John Selman after a verbal dispute regarding Selman's son. Hardin was only 42.
The gun he used to kill Webb has an unbroken chain of custody tracing from Hardin to Sheriff Carnes, to drugstore owner Dr. Hamilton in Comanche, Texas, who gave it to his night watchman Harvey Lumpkin. Roy Sherill obtained the gun from Mr. Lumpkin, who sold it in 1970. It has since been passed through three generations of the family that obtained the gun in 1970.
On display this year in the Collectors Row section of the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Dallas, Texas, it was awarded one of 2018's 10 Best Arms silver medals by the NRA's Gun Collectors Committee.
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